Mark and I have been Walt Disney World Annual Passholders since 2016. I had been to Magic Kingdom as a young child, and once to Epcot in my early 20s and loved it, but Mark had never been and I’ve always wanted to show him the childlike magic that he missed as a kid.
His first experience at Disney World was a unique and special one and we never even went into an actual theme park!! (we saw ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, and Disney Springs). That’s because Mark signed up to run the runDisney Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon in April of 2016. We stayed at Port Orleans -French Quarter and took the boat from the resort to Disney Springs for a pre-race meal at The Rainforest Cafe, and it sold him on the magic! We finally got our passes for my birthday in August 2016 (we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and went to Magic Kingdom for the first time) and we used the heck out of the passes until 2020!
From 2016-2020 we were die-hard fans going to the parks at least 4 times a year! (usually more!!) We’ve been to all 4 parks in Florida – Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Epcot multiple times each, plus Disney’s Boardwalk, and stayed in several on-site resorts plus one more affordable hotel nearby. We’ve celebrated most of our birthdays and anniversaries there each year, escaped real-life stress, mourned incredibly sad losses, and made some irreplaceable memories with each other and family over the last few years.
We’ve stayed at the following hotels and loved them all. It would be a goal/dream to officially stay in every single one 🤞🙌
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort- French Quarter
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
TownePlace Suites Orlando at FLAMINGO CROSSINGS® Town Center/Western Entrance
Probably our most favorite thing to do above all else- the amazing festivals at Epcot!
Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Arts which is typically in the winter (Jan-Feb) This one tops the list and is a must-do and our favorite!!
Taste of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which is typically in the spring-summer (March- July) This one is a must-see for sure!!!
EPCOT Food and Wine Festival which is typically summer-fall (July 15- Nov 20, 2021) This one is a must eat and drink everything!!!!
Our most recent trip to Disney World was in August 2020- the first time during the pandemic and very shortly after Disney World reopened after being closed for several months due to Covid-19. We went to Epcot for The Food and Wine Festival, stayed at the Swan Hotel, and had to arrange plans (spent an hour on the phone) to go to Hollywood Studios the next day. Ugh, It was different… originally as Platinum Passholders we could just hop in the car and go on a whim anytime with no blackout dates, but now even as Passholders, you are required to plan ahead and make a park reservation ahead of time or stay in a resort hotel in order to get into the parks. (If there is actually availability due to park admission limitations and hotel closures).
We used to visit multiple parks in a day doing things like lunch in Animal Kingdom and then dinner in Epcot. During the pandemic, park-hopping came to an end too along with most modes of transportation between parks. Even when outdoors and physically distanced from everyone we weren’t allowed to take a selfie without our masks on and cast members were always ready to pop out of nowhere and instruct you to wear it and keep moving. It was impossible to eat and drink unless you were stuck standing at a table in the sun when we were so accustomed to leisurely walking from place to place and keeping cool. And you guys, they didn’t even hand out the passports in Epcot for the festival 😩.
You could tell the parks we’re running on a skeleton crew, everyone seemed tired and bitter to be there. The usual smiling cast members weren’t even trying to look happy- but hey, who could blame them… it was a rough year and everything I’m complaining about is super petty in the big scheme of things…. but it did make the monthly cost of the pass feel no longer worth it. Most of the staff was furloughed and I’m sure everyone we saw was doing multiple jobs and jobs they had once been promoted out of…. again I get it, I just wasn’t mentally prepared for how glum the whole place felt. Also, a vast majority of the shops and restaurants were closed… it felt a bit like a sad ghost town and I even cried a little over the magic lost. 😔
When it came time to renew our passes, Disney never even contacted us as they always have in the past, so we took it as a sign and let it go… ❄️ (did you sing the Frozen song in your head too?)
Fast forward 7 months and we both find ourselves missing it so so much!! Even with all the new complications we just miss the escape to our happy place. I mean when you live 1.5 hours from Disney… you go to Disney as much as possible, duh!
We have been debating and even took the first step to see what the process of renewing our passes would be. We are still eligible and were updated on the current ins and outs and assured that they are continually reviewing and making changes as things evolve with COVID. We have high hopes that things will get better and the magic of Disney will fully return. Since we can’t travel the world right now, we love the idea of utilizing happiness in our own backyard!
So until we decide- Enjoy a huge photo dump of some of our favorite Disney memories from the last 4 years ❤️ I think it’s pretty obvious how happy Disney makes us so we’ll keep you posted if we make the decision!
Fingers-crossed we will be back to Disney adventures soon – then we can keep sharing the fun! Ask questions if you’ve got em!